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Books Chat

A chat with W.E.B. Griffin

Best-selling military author

January 21, 2000
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Best-selling military author W.E.B. Griffin joined the chat room on January 21, 2000, to discuss his series of military novels. Griffin participated in the chat by telephone from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and provided a typist for him. The following is an edited transcript of the chat.

Chat Moderator: Welcome, W.E.B. Griffin!

Griffin: Hello!

Chat Moderator: Mr. Griffin, please tell our audience about yourself.

Griffin: There is not much to tell; I am a very uninteresting person. I have written a 170 books.

Question from Allen: Is Mr. Griffin visiting Atlanta or online from L.A. (Lower Alabama)?

Griffin: I live on Mobile Bay, in Alabama. But now I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Question from Ken: What's coming for McCoy and company?

Griffin: I think world war II is over and I am going to start the next book with Korea.

Question from Lany: I would like to know what obstacles were faced in trying to become a writer and how they were overcome. Also, any advice for would-be writers?

Griffin: The first thing a writer who makes a living at it needs is an enormous amount of luck. The next think he/she needs to do is learn the craft.

Question from CrewChief: What type of direction can you give someone that's currently writing a military based book, as far as getting it published?

Griffin: It is very difficult. The one thing I would say don't hire an agent. Anyone who wants money from you is probably going to steal it. You should write a one page letter, just one page, to one of the publishers who publishes military books. Tell him what you have written, and ask if you can send it to him. Do not send a manuscript in uninvited, and do not try to sell an uncompleted manuscript.

Question from PasJeff: Have you pursued the military genre under any other pen name?

Griffin: Yes. I wrote a bunch of books which are now out again under the WEB Griffin name. They were about the OSS. The series was called "Men at War." I have about 14 different pen names.

Question from Redleg_in_PA: Were you an armor or cavalry officer at one time? Your knowledge there seems to be first-hand. [12:12]

Griffin: I am a fully qualified tank commander as a sergeant.

Question from BOB: Do you plan to spend more time in Viet Nam with the Corps than you did with the "Brotherhood" series?

Griffin: I don't think so. That is a long way off. I have the Korean war to write, first. I did not serve in Vietnam, so I don't know much about it.

Question from PasJeff: Is the "Men at War" series connected to the "Honor Bound" series (characters I mean)?

Griffin: No. they are separate series.

Question from von: Who is your favorite character?

Griffin: Oh geesh. I don't know. I like them all; they have all become friends.

Question from Suwonken: How many books were in the Men at War series?

Griffin: There were four in that series.

Question from CrewChief: Why so many pen names?

Griffin: At one time, I was supporting my children by writing books for kids, and they are sold to librarians as well. Children's librarians would only buy one book from an author. So, writing under many pen names was a way to make a living.

Question from Aquaman : Congratulations on your well deserved success, how is your research on the Falklands coming along?

Griffin: First, thank you. I had to go back a long time before the Falklands, to the Honor Bound books, when world war 2 first started. I will get to it eventually. I really want to write about it.

Question from Redleg_in_PA: One thing I am curious about... you know eastern Pennsylvania so well; did you ever live there?

Griffin: Yes. My family is originally from outside of Philadelphia. I went into the army from Philadelphia.

Question from PasJeff: Are all of your "Honor Bound" books already written, and are waiting for release?

Griffin: The Honor Bound books are not already written. I work on those as they come out. I am in trouble with my publisher who would like to have a couple waiting to be published.

Question from ScottK: Which series of yours are complete, and which are currently being continued?

Griffin: I plan more books in all the series! What I am writing now is another "Brotherhood."

Question from Suwonken: What book can we expect next? I am reading Secret Honor now.

Griffin: The next one out is the fourth one in the Men at War Series. The next one I am working on is called Special Ops, which will be in the Brotherhood series.

Question from PasJeff: How do you schedule what book to work on next? Do you alternate series one book at a time?

Griffin: Yes. I try to shift gears between books. I don't like to do two at once because you get confused that way

Question from Redleg_in_PA: How do you manage to develop such magnificently detailed characters? After one book you feel as if you know them already.

Griffin: I guess I am just lucky. As I said before, the characters become friends, real people - to me. And that makes it a lot easier.

Question from Allen: Have you ever considered or been approached about film/television adaptations of your work?

Griffin: No. I think they would be too expensive for television. I would love it, but I don't think it will happen. What I write would be just too expensive for TV. They wouldn't make any money for TV.

Question from Scott: When did you join the army and when did you leave the service?

Griffin: I joined the Army on October 4, 1956. I left the army when I came home from Korea in 1953.

Griffin: Then I was a Dept. of the Army for a couple of years.

Question from Allen: Regarding the new Brotherhood book, without revealing too much, where will it fall in the series (time line)?

Griffin: It is going to pick up where the "Aviators" left off, when I start to tell the story of Che Gueverra going to Africa. Right after the Stanleyville massacre, Gueverra went to Africa, and tried to take over the Congo. But failed miserably. He then went to Bolivia, and that is where they killed him. Not many people know that story.

Question from von>: Many of your main characters seem to be from wealthy families. Does this reflect your background?

Griffin: No. Oh no, not at all. Rich people are more interesting than poor people.

Question pgberns: What made you so interested in the Marines, being a former Army soldier?

Griffin: Many of my very close friends are Marines, and I got a lot of pressure to write about the Marines. And, I like the Marines. I have a great deal of admiration for them.

Chat Moderator: Did you spend much time with Marines?

Griffin: I served with 10th Corps in Korea, and the Marines were under 10th Corp. And I have made friends with a lot of people who are marines. They are special people. You don't see many people with signs in the back of their pick ups saying US Army, but you sure do see ones saying U.S. Marine.

Question from Allen: Any comments on "Saving Private Ryan". What did you think?

Griffin: I thought it was a great movie, and I think they really tried to do it well. I understand from a friend of mine, it is almost a true story. I think Hanks did a terrific job playing the school teacher turned company commander. Most of my soldier friends think it was a pretty good movie, too.

Question from Redleg_in_PA: Any thought about making one of your major characters an artilleryman? I'd be happy to give you details! (LOL)

Griffin: I have a lot of friends who are cannon cockers, so I get that suggestion about once a week.

Question from pgberns: Do you still stay connected to modern-day military current affairs? If yes, how do you get your information?

Griffin: I know and have known a lot of career soldiers. There is the net. When something happens, they put it on the net. Every once in a while, I go to a military base and talk to the sergeants.

Question from casey: you wrote your first book in 3 weeks? Will you describe your writing schedule and how it evolved?

Griffin: Now, I try to get up early and work until I get tired. If I get in 4 or 5 hours, that is a good day. When I was younger, and trying to put shoes on three kids, I worked 8 hours a day.

Question from Scott: Who are the writers that you most admire?

Griffin: I think Tom Clancey is the best story to come down the pike in years. He can do things that rest of us cannot. There is another, an Englishman, who wrote the books about India, who, like most Englishman, speaks better English than either Clancey of I do.

Question from Randy: Do you plan on still working on The Corps series?

Griffin: Oh yes. The next Corps series will be about Korea.

Question from ateloc: Do any of your books talk about the GI and the chaplain?

Griffin: No. One of my good friends is Chappy Wood, who was the 82nd's chaplain, but I have never written about them.

Question from Redleg_in_PA: What was your reason for terminating the "Brotherhood of War" series as you did?

Griffin: At the time, I did not have anything else to say. I was sort of it. But now I am not tired, and I am going back to it.

Question from Howee88: Will the same people continue to be in the Corps series?

Griffin: Oh, absolutely!! They are my friends, and I couldn't do without them.

Question from Allen: What is your opinion on the military of today?

Griffin: I am sorry to say that they are in very bad shape. The morale is lousy. In my judgment, we need a new president, and the sooner the better.

Question from PasJeff: On average, how often can we expect a new release?

Griffin: About once every six months, about twice a year.

Question from PasJeff: Does your web site keep readers posted re: new releases?

Griffin: I don't know. The story of the website is that Sgt. Zeb Casey, who helped me so much with the Badge of Honor series, suffered a stroke, which left him with his brain in tact, but his body non-function. The website was his; he was rolled up to the keyboard, and he typed the webpage one letter at a time. I don't visit it now because I miss Casey so much.

Chat Moderator: What's your next book to be released?

Griffin: The next one is "Fighting Agents" in the "Men at War" series. And the other is "Special Ops," which will be out about a year from now.

Chat Moderator: Thank you W.E.B. Griffin for joining us today!

Griffin: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.!!

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